Charles H. Fewster, 67, city firefighter, collector

March 28, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles H. Fewster, a retired Baltimore City firefighter who collected firefighting memorabilia, died Sunday of cancer at his Arbutus home. He was 67.

He was a firefighter for 36 years and retired as a captain from Engine Company 30 at Caton and Frederick avenues in 1995.

He began his career in 1959 as a firefighter assigned to Engine Company 55 and was promoted to pump operator at Engine 27 in Northeast Baltimore in 1970. Promoted to lieutenant in 1971, he served for two years at Truck 19 in Locust Point until his promotion to captain in 1973.

He earned two departmental commendations for exemplary performance, and a certificate of appreciation.

"He was a big man who laughed easily," said Gary Frederick, assistant Fire Department chief and a longtime friend.

"He was a very congenial and friendly man who was always willing to lend a hand," Mr. Frederick said. "He was a real all-around popular guy and because of that, he earned the respect of all in the department. He loved the fire service."

Mr. Fewster's enthusiasm for his work carried over into his private life.

An avid collector of firefighting memorabilia and ephemera, he filled the club basement of his home with helmets, lanterns, fire call boxes, hats, shirts, pins, badges and scale models of firefighting apparatus.

Although his collection was primarily devoted to Baltimore firefighting equipment, he also owned artifacts from fire departments in Germany.

"He had a museum down there. He even had a brass fire pole," said his wife of 48 years, the former Charlotte E. Harman. They were teen-age sweethearts.

"As time went by, it kind of grew on me. I really had no choice," she said, laughing.

Mr. Fewster also produced and sold hand-made and die-cast models of Baltimore Fire Department equipment.

"He personified the Baltimore City Fire Department, and his enthusiasm carried over into his own home-grown business," Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, the department's public information officer, said yesterday.

Mr. Fewster and his wife also sold models at collectors' flea markets throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Since 1984, he operated the Fire House Flea Market table at the worldwide Fire Expo, an annual industry convention held in July at the Baltimore Convention Center.

"He was a tremendous historian and had a vast knowledge of the department," said Bob Brown, a detective with the city Police Department's Arson Squad and a friend for 20 years.

"He was a leader in his profession and the hobby," said Mr. Brown, who relied upon Mr. Fewster's expertise in restoring several antique fire engines.

Mr. Fewster was a member of the Chesapeake Model Fire Engineers Club and had been an assistant curator at the Baltimore City Fire Museum, housed in the historic Engine Company 6 firehouse on Gay Street.

Born and raised in Pigtown, Mr. Fewster attended Southern High School and later earned his high school diploma. He served with the Navy Seabees from 1950 until 1953. He joined the Coast Guard Reserve and was discharged with the rank of chief in 1990.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 12: 30 p.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church, 4416 Wilkens Ave., Arbutus.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Fewster is survived by two sons, Michael C. Fewster of Baltimore and Robert H. Fewster Sr. of Arbutus; a daughter, Deborah A. Sprucebank of Bel Air; his mother, Margaret Marie Fewster of Arbutus; a brother, Philip J. Fewster of Towson; two sisters, Anna Marie Miller of Arbutus and Cathy M. Clayton of Elizabeth, Colo.; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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